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November, 2009

Lorser Feitelson, “Untitled (January 30),”
1971, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60”.
In 1934 Lorser Feitelson, together with his wife Helen Lundeburg, founded Subjective Classicism, otherwise known as Post Surrealism.  He was a pioneer, also, in the development of Abstract Classicism, a form of Hard Edge painting that was notable for being distinguished from East Coast Abstract Expressionism. Featured in LACMA’S 1959 exhibit “Four Abstract Classicists,” Feitelson was instrumental in putting Los Angeles on the map as a center of avant garde art. His distinctive sense of space and form, associated with traditional Classicism, remained intact throughout his career. This show focuses on Feitelson’s late paintings, and the selections here show how his artistic development went through a process of reduction, a gradual descent from austere geometric forms to the inclusion of graceful lines that rhythmically spiral and dance through space. Although Feitelson intended his configurations to metaphorically express “ominously magnificent and terrifying events,” that dire sentiment is difficult to envision when contemplating his minimalist reflections on line and color. His use of undulating colored lines against  solid  backgrounds, or curvilinear evocations of black on black are more readily conducive to meditation. Elements from his Hard Edge
period, however, can be found in boldly colored geometric renditions, their harsh contrasts softened by the sinuous lines that float and loop  through them. At the same time, it is testament to Feitelson’s harmonious balance that the eye is also drawn to the empty spaces that surround them. Although the reflective qualities  of his works may offer paths to emotional response, they ultimately stem from Feitelson’s critical assessment of form and space (Louis Stern Fine Art, West Hollywood).

-Elenore Welles

Jacob Hashimoto is best know for his paper installations in which kite-like forms float from ceiling to floor, often cascading across the gallery. Suspended from elaborate lattices are hundreds of repeated forms (kites made from bamboo rods and delicately printed Japanese paper) that extend into the gallery space. These installations were something to marvel at because of their complexity and the labor-intensive process of their making. In his current exhibition, Hashimoto departs from the site specificity of his installation works, creating wall based assemblages in which layers of 'small round kites' become dense patterns of overlapping forms. While the wall works lack the atmospheric impact of the installations, they are still amazingly complex creations--a web of nylon supporting multiple paper forms. Hashimoto's imagery, built from the layering of the circular forms, relates to the natural as well as the artificial landscape (Otero Passart, West Hollywood).

-Jody Zellen

Jacob Hashimoto, “The Main Event of Their Lives,”
2009, acrylic, paper, bamboo, nylon, 40 x 34 x 8”.

Ball-Nogues Studio, “Feathered Edge,” 2009, installation view.

Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues are Los Angeles-based architects whose specialty is creating works that subtly interact with the built environment. This stunning installation uses over 21 miles of dyed string that cascades and overlaps as gracious curves in the center of the gallery space. The colors morph from blue to pink to yellow as the string flows from the ceiling toward the floor. At once an aesthetic and technical feat, the seeming simplicity of the gesture was created with the aid of custom software and a specially designed machine. Viewing up close and from afar give different perspectives of the piece, as the individual strands morph from color to color and the shadows criss-cross on the wall and floor. The accompanying sketches and video provide insight into the making of the work, and elaborate on the intricacies of the computer assisted process of making something that appears to be, when all is said and done, highly structured chaos (MOCA Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood).


German native Gerald Förster perceived sexual culture as repressed and taboo in America. His desire to bring it out of the shadows sent him in the streets of New York with an 8 x 10 inch film camera.  Förster’s C-Prints capture the urban landscape in deep focus, while the subjects appear in a perceptual blur--their bodies so deeply tangled that they become one amalgamated form. Taken from distant vantage points, the photographs present Förster as the ultimate voyeur whose lens probes and discovers couples fornicating against parked cars, clinging to a chain linked fence, beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, and on a basketball court. Three video installations accompany the photographs and are displayed in Lucite frames on the gallery walls. The grossly pixilated video of couples screwing under streetlights is at once arresting and discomfiting. Förster subjects we, his viewers to replicate the same voyeuristic act of looking that he did in creating the series.

Gerald Förster, “Nocturnal #11,” 2009, color photograph.

“Nocturnal” however is more an examination of culture than it is one of voyeurism. Förster solicited his own colleagues, friends and also strangers from the Internet ranging in age from 18 to 65. Their participation is realized as they display no apparent shame in their lack of discretion. Real or staged, Förster establishes a hyper reality where the identity of the couples are so obscured that sexuality literally becomes submerged in urbanity (Stephen Cohen Gallery, West Hollywood).

-A. Moret

Roy Dowell, 2009, mixed media.
For over 30 years Roy Dowell has been making elegant works on paper. His modest sized collages combine newspaper images, commercial posters, colored paper as well as pencil and paint. Each collage is unique, a world unto itself, to be looked at and looked into. Dowell's works are not spontaneous but rather formal studies of shape, color and composition. In the gallery setting the works play off one another to give rise to a narrative about the abstraction as one moves from image to image. While there is no overly political or social message to the works, often one can delight in finding within the collaged elements a subtle headline or text fragments that steers the work into a surprising and unpredictable direction (Margo Leavin Gallery, West Hollywood).


The photographs of Felipe Dupouy and Joshua Paul are presented unframed along gallery walls so as to cause the eye to constantly wander. Paul captures the Arctic in vivid Technicolor, assessing each detail of the splintering ice beneath the boat, to a fish frozen in a blackened stream.  The view from the deck of the Lancaster Sound, a massive expedition vessel, is of an unforgiving sea of ice extending all the way to the horizon. As “Ice Antler” suggests, we are but a single fractured piece of ice wandering through the sea. Dupouy’s prints of Downtown Los Angeles require that the viewer look up at the forgotten and intricate designs and friezes of Angelino architecture. In photographing birds in flight, Dupouy seems to suspend their motion and alter the appearance of the buildings nearby to give motion to stasis. A noir and science fiction effect is achieved in archival pigment prints such as “Icarus,” a formation of birds sweeping over a building that looks as though it has been electrocuted (Clark|Oshin Gallery, Miracle Mile).


Joshua Paul, 2009, color photograph.

Dirk Skreber, “Untitled (Car Crash),”
2009, car and pole.
There are a few surprise introductions within the 15th Anniversary Inaugural Exhibition at this powerhouse gallery’s new 21,000-square-foot compound (across the street from their Culver City-pioneering location), but the real star is the space itself. Designed by the same architects who designed their prior building, Escher GuneWardena, the new space ups the intimidation factor with an exceedingly long reception area and private, aquarium-like office spaces on both floors. The galleries themselves have a similar feel to the old space (similar high ceiling and long, florescent tubes), but with more size and better flow; and then there’s the upstairs, loft-like project space, which has been thoroughly filled, and a much smaller side gallery, all allowing at least one piece from each of the stable’s artists. New to the fold are veteran New York painter Caroll Dunham; Lee Ufan, currently perhaps South Korea’s foremost artist; and L.A.’s own Tim Hawkinson, who makes a strong impression with his single piece, a giant tiki-style mask made of various readymade plastics and foils, including amber pill bottles. Dirk Skreber also makes a heavy dent, with an actual car wrapped around a pole at its ‘waist,’ giving viewers an intimate, side-long view at our primary mode of transportation unlike any other. Keith Tyson’s latest mathematical theory painting, a half-joking attempt to order chaos, is another standout. This new launch not only gives Blum & Poe the opportunity to show off their multiple brands, it also signals the cementing of their stake in Culver City’s gallery future (Blum & Poe, Culver City).

-Michael Shaw

Irving Penn passed away on October 7, at age 92--Ed] On assignment in post-war Paris for a hectic ten day Vogue fashion shoot, Irving Penn managed to photograph scores of petis métiers, scouted out for him by Parisian street photographers such as Robert Doisneau. Instructed to arrive dressed in their work clothes, the small tradesmen were ushered into Penn’s rented studio and posed, isolated in front of a non-descript canvas drop, sandwiched between appointments with celebrities like Alberto Giacometti and the hordes of haughty models flaunting France’s fall fashions. All trudged up seven flights of stairs, the workers encumbered by the weight of the tools of their trade. Samples of the subsequent publication of Penn’s seminal working class photographs in Vogue magazine accompany this exhibition of his entire collection of over 250 works. From Paris Penn continued to photograph small tradesmen in London and New York in the 1950’s. The pictures convey the workers' pride as well as the photographer’s inventiveness and genius for staging. But today’s dismal economy pushes Penn’s stunning studies of rag pickers, coal men, newspaper sellers, etc., towards a kind of memento mori to jobs lost and workers displaced by technology and corporate globalization (The Getty Center, West Los Angeles).

-Diane Calder

Dan Mills, map from “U.S. Future States Atlas.”
"U.S. Future States: An Atlas of Global Imperialism" is both a book and an exhibition by artist/curator Dan Mills. The Director of the Samek Art Gallery at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, Mills has been working on the “Atlas” since 2003. The drawings (which have been sequenced into a book published by Perceval Press) re-imagines the world, renaming states and dissolving borders, with an eye towards making it a more peaceful place. Each piece is a collage of paint, pencil, map fragments and handwritten text. The project is both personal and universal, as it delves into “real” politics as well as economic issues, yet also turns the world upside down. Countries are renamed according to what they can contribute to better the world. To appreciate Mills’ efforts it is necessary to commit the time to read each image and to rethink our relationship to the familiar maps that shape our image of the world (Sherry Frumkin Gallery, Santa Monica).


I imagine Gwynn Murrill’s hands are always moving, not only in the service of figuration, but through it, inside it and beyond. One might even be so bold as to say her recent exhibition, “Maquettes,” is obsessive. While each individual figure may or may not stand on its own, it is the sheer force of these small maquettes seen together (over ninety of them represented here) that make this exhibition powerful and affecting. Beautifully organized and displayed on shelves throughout the gallery, each small scale animal figurines--made of wood, ceramic, bronze and aluminum--lends credence to the next through precise placement, suggested movement and their own materiality. Murrill seems more interested in the relationship between the figures and the implied narratives that are a direct result of their positioning than in any one sculpture, which is what makes the exhibition more compelling and richly realized. In short, this show represents Murrill’s own private Birnam Wood, and as with Macbeth, who is warned he’ll “never vanquish'd be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him,” there is no telling what might happen (L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice).

-Eve Wood

Gwynn Murrill, “Big Twisting Cheetah,”
2009, bronze, 37 x 39 x 57”.

Ormond Gigli, “Models in the Window, New
York,” 1960, chromogenic development print.
Traditional black and white photographs in standard sizes--those that typically fill partial wings of museums and photo-centric galleries--tend to blur together into an undistinguished background hum. But on occasion, if given a chance, you may find yourself quickly swept up into something transcendent. Such is the case with “The Face of Fashion,” which features exotic fashion plates from the 1930s through the ‘80s (though mostly ‘50s and ‘60s), including icons from Josephine Baker to Twiggy. The reason could be as simple as the images being so completely not of our era, or the mix of women’s freedom and control but with a touch of Victorianism mixed in. But there’s something about the exotic quality of this mid-century couture and the women who model them that holds up surprisingly well.  There’s a freshness to the posed environments that would seem coy or otherwise disingenuous in today’s photography. Here it feels natural and often endearing. Take William Klein’s “Simone & Painting + Coffee, Rome” (1960), which features a woman in a white dress and tall, dark hat ooh-ing at a classical painting that’s being transported by an unseen man as she walks down a Roman side street.
Another standout from the same year is Ormond Gigli’sModels in the Window, New York,” a color photo in which dozens of well-dressed models raise their arms as they pose, each in their own window frame forming a sexy grid above a Rolls parked on the sidewalk below. There’s a daring and performative quality here that’s reminiscent of Improv Everywhere’s “Look Up More” (2005), in which participants filled the windows of a Forever 21 store facing Union Square park in New York. Gigli and some of his peers, it turns out, captured a time that feels, however naively, missed (Peter Fetterman Gallery, Santa Monica).


James Rosenquist, “Flaminco Capsul,” 1973, lithograph, 36 1/2 x 76”.

The colorful fragment of an American flag in James Rosenquist’s oversized lithograph, “Flaminco Capsul” pulls you into the main gallery, where prints from the 1970’s and 80’s, featuring half a dozen multimedia, solvent transfers and layered beauties by Robert Rauschenberg, await inspection. All could be said to give “variety, pleasure and avenues for exploration and involvement in contemporary life,” a phrase incorporated into the purposes of Experiments in Art and Technology, an East coast nonprofit organization providing artists with access to the technical world. In 1973, E. A. T. assembled an amazing portfolio of 30 works donated by New York artists to raise funds for Moderna Museet, Stockholm. The original collection, housed in a wooden box, sold out years ago. However, thanks to the secondary market, more than twenty of those small treasures, by artists such as Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, Lee Bontecou, Richard Serra, Louise Nevelson and Dan Flavin, are on view in Assembled Realities and Small Treasures (Ikon Ltd., Santa Monica).


Bob Poe, "Cover," iPhone photograph, archival pigment on canvas, 54 x 90".
Since its release in 2007 the iPhone has yielded a plethora of technological possibilities. Bob Poe’s current show, “Illumination” (curated by artist Lisa Adams) demonstrates that the iPhone’s modest built-in 2-megapixle camera is a vehicle through which to engage in a new visual dialogue between ways of seeing art through a technologically curious prism. Poe’s use of the phone as a sort of camera stylo led him to produce large-scale photographs adhered to canvases. The tactic will resonate with Angelinos in part because the images capture familiar locations throughout Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
The portability of the iPhone lends itself to a spontaneous recording of images, while the inherent limitations of the device itself produce unexpected renderings of otherwise familiar objects. “Illumination” reveals Poe’s fascination with the architecture of color as it is revealed in the fiery pixilated blurs from amusement parks; a cascading theatre curtain from a famed theatre which doubles as an architectural site with its rounded archways; and a bar lined with repeating incandescent green bottles.  “Illumination” speaks not only to our shared fascination with objects that light up, whether mechanically or naturally, but shines a light on the conversation ignited by a common product being used as a means to produce art (Bob Poe Gallery, Santa Monica).


Carlos Amorales, “Discarded Spider,” 2008; painted aluminum and rubber; Courtesy of the artist and Yvon Lambert Paris, New York, London.
Discussions with Mexican artist Carlos Amorales and readings of wall panels within his exhibition of computer-collage drawings, titled “Discarded Spider,” convey a profound message of works combining beauty and horror, people and animals. Look beyond these messages to see magnificent large black on white images of spiders and spider-like people, animals and skulls. The twenty-two 45 1/4 x 35 1/2” “Selected Ghosts” combine figurative with abstract images, mixed in with deftly designed spidery lines, spreading out almost to the edges. The works are spare and minimal, but longer looks reveal intentional complexity and meditative beauty. Two similar paintings differ from the collages with white lines and images on black backgrounds. Four enormous spider web sculptures, of painted aluminum and rubber, mirror the collages and paintings. Their 3-dimensionality provides additional elegance and fluidity that is not present in the drawings. Two videos round out the show, one showing the artist constructing a sculpture, the other an abstract projection with computerized music (OCMA, Orange County).

-Liz Goldner

What really is “incorruptible” within an economy and culture marked by rapid fire production and temporal display? At least that’s the question we take away from curator and artist Shane Guffogg’s “proVISIONal Art.” It’s packed with works by 50 artists who responded to his Open Call for art “rejecting the sleek and manicured” of commercial art in favor of the more “authentic ideas” of the “unfinished or tentative.” (All quotations are taken from the show’s prospectus.) The result is an erratic, sometimes puzzling, but fundamentally probing examination of what art writer Raphael Rubinstein, writing in May’s Art in America called, the “Provisional” aesthetic. The article described painters grouped by virtue of their predilection for the rough, unfinished image, as well as raw and impermanent materials or crude construction. The idea is to keep their art’s possibilities intact and, in looking continually unfinished, also stay resistant to the commercial market. Clearly Guffogg and the artists would argue with Rubenstein on what exactly constitutes “provisionality” in an artwork, but certainly many works here, especially the paintings, feel anything but unfinished or tentative. Nor would I call the fragile or humble materials many of the sculptors favor inherently uncollectible. Anne Hieronymus’ tattered and teetering pile of lacy papers and her leaning strips of packing materials are wonderfully satisfying assemblages of scraps, balance and void. Mariona Barkus churns witty phrases of prepackaged sentiment out of chewed up white Styrofoam packing material.  Jeffrey Crussel’s plain brown cardboard box, mailed back to himself from across the county, is inscribed with looping ballpoint pen inscribed words collected in transit from religious radio stations he listened to as he drove along the nation’s highways. The piece is deceptively quiet for tagging so clearly the mobility of religious rancor and inflammatory rhetoric currently throbbing across the nation’s airwaves (OCCCA, Orange County).

-Suvan Geer

Fernando Botero

Fernando Botero’s large, colorful paintings of corpulent people and still lifes are usually shown a few at a time, and for good reason. “The Baroque World of Fernando Botero” presents nearly 100 paintings, alongside majestic sculptures, and it is like having a feast with far too much to eat. At least until you delve into it! The works are not only voluminous in dimensions and in the outsized characters that are Botero’s signature. They have sarcastic and/or political views of life, often with amusing twists. “The Bath” is a rear-end view of a stark naked woman, her huge butt filling half of the canvas. “Dancer at the Barre” is a massive woman in tutu, pirouetting on a tiny toe shoe. The wonder is that she stays upright. Somehow what at first appears to be an overstuffed show also manages to remain upright (Bowers Museum, Orange County).


For a man considered to be one of the world’s first video artists (an astounding concept for today’s youtube generation), Nam June Paik’s name still seems to flit outside the main canon of art history. But strolling through Paik’s succinct show of five pieces dated from 1963 to 2001 a couple of explanations for this come to mind. First, he was a pioneer in a field that has changed so rapidly that it seems inconceivable that today’s video capacity cell phones could have evolved from the then ubiquitous television box. Two, Paik’s sense of humor has a large dose of sheer goofiness.

Nam June Paik, “Gulliver,” 2001, 11 antique TV cabinets, one antique radio
cabinet, 10 13-inch color TVs, one 19-inch color TV, three channel original video
with DVD players, 18 mixed media Lilliputians with five inch LCD TV monitors,
23 x 170 x 146”.  Courtesy of Meta-4 Art and Bonhams & Butterfields.
But that all aside, it is humbling to ponder some the earliest and still vital intersections between musical composition, video experimentation, and visual poetry (UC Irvine, Beall Center, Orange County).

-Jeannie R. Lee

Rita Blitt, “Celebrating Dorianna,”
1996-97, acrylic/oil on canvas, 70 x 188”.

Rita Blitt is a work in progress. While painting broad, fluid abstract strokes, she often works with both hands and arms, imitating the movements of dancers, creating lines that remind viewers of modern dance. Rita sometimes paints alongside dancers, using large plate glass as canvas though which she views their movements. She explains that she and the dancers engage in the same kind of creativity. “When those lines come from my hands, I feel like I am dancing.” Often, she composes her works to music. A seminal moment was the birth of her granddaughter, Dorianna, in 1996.
To celebrate this event, she created “Celebrating Dorianna,” a 70 x 188 inch canvas with calligraphic strokes punctuated by bursts of yellows, blues and reds. The childlike, yet sophisticated work is one of 38 pieces in this show that includes paintings, drawings and sculpture (Soka University, Orange County).


John Hubbard Rich, “The Idle Hour,”
1917, oil on canvas, 14 x 14”.
John Hubbard Rich’s “The Idle Hour,” portrays a young woman, exotically adorned, a large flowered fan framing her profile. Included in the exhibition “Selections from the Irvine Museum,” it is evocative of Guy Rose’s exquisite “Marguerite” over at the Bowers Museum. Rich’s work is also a refreshing departure from the classic California Impressionist works of seascapes and landscapes by Franz Bischoff, Maurice Braun, Anna Hills, Joseph Kleitsch, Hanson Puthuff, Granville Redmond, Guy Rose, Marion Wachtel, William Wendt and others. While these and similar paintings by California masters have graced the museum walls since 1993, a periodic trip there recalls California’s vanishing natural landscape, as well as (museum founder) Joan Irvine Smith’s valiant efforts to preserve the land--in part by displaying her art collection. Several works there, although often exhibited, are still enchanting, particularly those of Joseph Kleitsch. His  “Bougainvillea San Juan Capistrano” and “Red and Green” have color, vibrancy, empathy and execution reminiscent of the best French Impressionism (Irvine Museum, Orange County).


Julie Mehretu, “Immanence,” 2004,
ink and synthetic polymer on canvas, 72 x 96”.
Photo: Christian Capurro.

“Automatic Cities: The Architectural Imaginary in Contemporary Art” is a theme show and, as such, demonstrates all the pitfalls and delights of working outward from an idea to actual art. Some of the art is dead on and an unexpected discovery for the viewer, while other works conform to the founding concept but are less interesting than the magic that is the “architectural imaginary.”  The paradox of architecture is that, despite its encroaching physicality, the built environment is never just what it is but always what we remember or imagine. The exhibition calls on Surrealism as a historical precedent and, indeed, one recalls Atget’s empty and haunted photographs of Paris, but the real connection to Surrealism is écriture automatique (automatic writing).
As seen in Paul Nobel’s huge drawings of an imaginary city, the architecture of this exhibition emanates from dream states. Rachael Whiteread plays on the role of memory in architecture by presenting the viewer with a chessboard filled with dollhouse furniture: miniature elements of a kitchen confronting tiny living room furniture across the squares. The game is not about playing house but about the eerie experience of returning to one’s childhood home--once so looming, now so diminutive. Less well known to American audiences is the work of Ann Lislegaard, a Norwegian video artist. Lislegaard brings together an unlikely combination of “The Crystal World” by the late British author, J. G. Ballard, and the glass house built by the Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi. The dual screened black and white video installation places the spectator in Bardi’s house, which is an undulating crystalline structure. The metamorphosis, accompanied by the occasional fragment of Ballard’s writing in Courier font, is mesmerizing and compelling. Michaël Borremans recycles used paper to capture, in delicate drawings and tentative watercolors, the plight of passive people, trapped in architecture, which threatens to absorb them. Matthew Ritchie is well-known for his lace-like fronds of color that climb walls and walk on floors, but here he has created shiny steel fallen forms, sprawling across the gallery, like collapsed cut lace. The story of cities comes to an end in the apocalypse of Ritchie’s automatic writing dematerialized (MoCA San Diego, La Jolla).

-Jeanne Willette